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Volume 24 No. 112

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Monday's postgame locker room incident between the Clippers and Rockets was a "bad look for the league" and has to be of "major concern" for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, according to Tim Reynolds of the AP. That comes amid an increase in on-court altercations in recent days, highlighted by the "wild swing" Magic G Arron Afflalo took at T'Wolves F Nemanja Bjelica last night, and players increasingly indicating they are "upset with referees." An "airing of grievances" about the officiating will take place in "meetings with the league at All-Star weekend." However, whatever the players say might seem "less credible now, especially after the last few days." Further complicating matters is that Rockets G and NBPA President Chris Paul recently "called out referee Scott Foster, plus allegedly had a role in the postgame events Monday." Silver is a "player-friendly commissioner, but that doesn't mean the NBA can't show some teeth" (AP, 1/17). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith believes the NBA "does not have an image problem, but it will if it continues based off of what we saw the last two days." Smith: "There’s no question that what has transpired over the last two days cannot continue. That is definitely bad for the league" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/17). In N.Y., Frank Isola writes the "potentially dangerous confrontation" at Staples Center is a "bad optic for the NBA." The scene was "shocking and must be dealt with appropriately." That means Silver, who has a "good relationship with Paul, needs to make an example" out of the four Rockets players involved. The "bare minimum would be fines and one-game suspension" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/17).

TIME TO SET A PRECEDENT
: In Houston, Jonathan Feigen writes for all the jokes that have come from the image of Paul and fellow Rockets Gs Trevor Ariza, James Harden and Gerald Green going into the Clippers locker room "through a hallway that connects Staples Center rooms, the NBA might struggle to find the humor or to just leave it at [Rockets coach] Mike D'Antoni's 'boys will be boys.'" There is "little precedent for the NBA to consider" regarding suspensions. The league suspended Matt Barnes in '16 for one game for entering the Bucks' locker room after a "confrontation with the Bucks' John Henson," but it "took no action after Ariza waited in a hallway in Dallas" for Mavericks C Salah Mejri last season (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/17). ESPN's Marcellus Wiley said, "You have to do something. You can't go into the opposing locker room" ("SportsNation," ESPN, 1/16). ESPN's Ramona Shelburne: "They have to set a precedent here that it is not okay to go into another team's locker room" ("OTL," ESPN, 1/16). FS1's Chris Broussard: "You need to send a message to deter them from doing it again" ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 1/16). 

LEADING BY EXAMPLE? Paul is coming under increased scrutiny for his role in Monday's incident due to his position within the union. FS1's Jason McIntyre called it a "classless" move by Paul and said, "It's the president of the Players Association going to look for a fight after the game" ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 1/16). NBA TV's Leigh Ellis said if Paul was "leading the charge to the opposition's locker room, that deserves punishment." Ellis: "You can't have him in that role knocking down doors" ("The Starters," NBA TV, 1/16).

COULD THIS BE GOOD FOR THE LEAGUE? YAHOO SPORTS' Ben Rohrbach wrote Monday was "one of the wildest NBA regular-season nights in recent memory -- complete with 21 technical fouls, five ejections and two near postgame confrontations" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/16). In Toronto, Bruce Arthur writes Monday was "fight night in the NBA." It started with Raptors G Kyle Lowry and 76ers G Ben Simmons "getting chippy" toward the end of their game. But that was "almost immediately overshadowed by other antics" at Staples Center (TORONTO STAR, 1/17). ESPN's Tony Reali wondered if the recent antics are "good for the game of basketball," as "people are talking about it." ESPN's Israel Gutierrez: "It’s good for the game because it gets these conversations going without there really being a fight” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/16). NBC Sports Bay Area's Ahmed Fareed: "It's good for the NBA. There're going to be people that say, 'No, you're showing kids the wrong thing to do.' All true, but it's very entertaining" ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 1/16). But FS1's Cris Carter said, "I do not tune in to NBA League Pass to watch UFC. That’s not what I’m interested in” ("First Things First," FS1, 1/17).

OFFICIALS NOT STEPPING UP: NBC Sports Bay Area's Ray Ratto noted one reason for the increase of on-court altercations is that referees "are not as good at defusing situations" as they once were. Players also are "more willing to talk smack to each other now." Ratto: "There's no longer that caste system. If you were a second-year guy, you didn't used to get to talk crap to a guy who's played for eight years. If you did, they would put you in your place. Now, everybody talks, and it’s because the officials have lost the ability to say, ‘Oh, we have something here’” ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 1/16).

MLS' delegates will account for 14% of the "overall vote in the upcoming election" for U.S. Soccer President, according to sources cited by Jeff Carlisle of ESPN.com. Sources said that the USSF BOD on Sunday "passed a proposal regarding the allocation of delegates within the Professional Council." The proposal -- put forward by MLS, the USL and the NWSL -- sees MLS "control nine of the 16 delegates in the Pro Council, which is comprised of representatives" from U.S. professional leagues. The USL and NWSL will get "three delegates each, with the NASL -- which is currently engaged in an anti-trust lawsuit against the USSF -- getting one delegate." MLS announced last month that it would support Soccer United Marketing President Kathy Carter as the league's "preferred candidate" (ESPN.com, 1/16).

SIZING UP THE CANDIDATES: In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald writes the "conventional wisdom among media and insiders" is that Carter and Eric Wynalda are the front-runners for USSF President. Carter is a "consummate insider" who has played a "key role in turning American soccer into a profitable business while in charge of SUM." But the entity, which markets the national team as well as MLS, has "long been criticized for a lack of transparency." Voters wanting change see Carter as "part of the status quo." Meanwhile, Wynalda is calling for a "dramatic overhaul of the American soccer landscape." He is a proponent of MLS "adopting the promotion-relegation system used to crown winners and losers in the rest of the world." Wynalda also wants to "shift the MLS calendar to the fall-to-spring schedule that Europe uses." Candidate Kyle Martino and USSF VP Carlos Cordeiro have the "best odds of staking a middle ground." Seven of the eight candidates are "scheduled for solo speaking sessions on stage" at the United Soccer Coaches' convention, which begins today and runs through Sunday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Cordeiro is the "only one who isn't" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/17).

STATE YOUR CASE: USSF presidential candidate Michael Winograd made his pitch on "ESPN FC" yesterday and said he is the right pick because he has a "deep soccer knowledge and experience from all angles on the soccer side, I’ve got the deep experience and knowledge on the business side and I’ve got complete independence." Winograd: "I have no hidden agenda, no sponsors, no special ties to any constituents. I have only one interest, and that is the interest of U.S. Soccer. I will invariably put that first.” Winograd said U.S. Soccer should not be "run through edicts coming from an ivory tower in Chicago,” and instead it “needs to involve the folks with boots on the ground, with expertise in all the decision making” (“ESPN FC,” ESPNews, 1/16).

The current lack of free agent signings in MLB "represents a reckoning long in the making -- one that marries shifting power in labor relations, the emergence of analytics and cookie-cutter front offices, and the willingness of teams to treat competitiveness as an option, not a priority," according to Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS. These factors combined "pose the greatest threat to a quarter century of labor peace" and have top execs "asking whether a game-changing overhaul in how baseball operates isn't just necessary but inevitable." One union official said, "I'm just not sure that the structure that's been in place for all of these years makes sense anymore." Passan noted teams that "pare back on spending or simply commit to losing justify it" by pointing to the Cubs and Astros, the last two World Series champions. A union official said, "There's less interest in winning than I've ever witnessed before. MLB has done a fantastic job of convincing the public that's OK." Tearing down to build up is a "business model," and efforts to "discourage it in the basic agreement ... had little effect." Players' "best years come in their 20s." Most free agents, then, are "asking teams to guarantee them large sums of money for multiple years based on the performance of years they're statistically unlikely to repeat." Teams have "almost destroyed baseball's so-called middle class of veteran non-stars." They "prefer scouring the trade market." One of the best free agents available this offseason recently said that he was "preparing to sit out until the middle of the season." He "worried he was going to need an external force to compel teams to pay him what his numbers say he's worth." Passan: "Maybe it would take a playoff race" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/16).

GEARING UP FOR NEXT YEAR? In Chicago, Paul Sullivan writes this offseason has been the "winter of our discontent, with relatively few free-agent signings and only a handful of big-name players on the move." About 130 or so free agents "remain unsigned, which should lead to a mad scramble once camps open." Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said, "I'm done predicting this winter. It has kind of taken on a life of its own." Sullivan: "If the money faucet is turned off this year, why would anyone think it automatically gets turned back on again next winter, when the luxury tax still will be in play for many contenders with massive payrolls?" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/17). Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said of the uniqueness of this offseason, "I've never seen a market go this slow, really. It's been a situation where, normally, you get to this time period and your club is pretty well set. You get back from the holidays and you're talking about spring training" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/17).